New GDS executive director sets out improved digital tools for civil servants

GDS’ new executive director, Stephen Foreshew-Cain, and Mayank Prakash, director general digital technology at department for work and pensions (DWP) have published a blog post examining what needs to be done in order to improve digital tools for civil servants, pointing out that they are “users too”.

The post explores a cross-government platform currently being worked on by the GDS in collaboration with other departments in order to make the civil service “digital by default”.


Tasks that shouldn’t be time consuming

Similar to people in other organisations, civil servants – who spend a lot of time building secure digital services for citizens using data – also have to undertake tasks such as: induction and training courses, performance management reviews and claim expenses.

“All of those things require a certain amount of management, which of course comes with inevitable paperwork. Right now, that management happens in lots of different ways.

“Sometimes it’s wrapped up in some sort of database or information management system, and other times it’s just documents that sit on people’s computers and get emailed from one person to the next,” the blog post said.

It points out that, whilst basic tasks such as this shouldn’t be problematic or time-consuming, presently they are.

Civil servants, just like people in other sectors, should be able to focus on the work they were hired to do, and not spend hours and hours on the bureaucracy that surrounds it,” it explained.


Key research into the user need

In order to bring about change, a GDS team has been researching the tools civil servants need in order to get tasks done.

To get to grips with what the “user needs” are, the team spoke with civil servants in various roles and departments about their experience of using different services to do carry out tasks such as booking meeting rooms. Using this research, they began working on a prototype.


Cross-government services prototype

The blog post includes the below video, which shows certain features in the cross-government services prototype.

The prototype does not replace any large system currently being used for complicated interactions; however, it has been designed to alter how data is transferred through those systems to improve the user experience.

It also includes a personal data store for every civil servant, which will enable them to monitor what data they share.

The GDS is currently collaborating with other departments, such as the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) and Civil Service Learning (CSL), to move the next step from ‘discovery’ to ‘alpha’.

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